About Fallout
ABOUT FALLOUT. 1955
Producer: Wilding Picture Productions

ABOUT FALLOUT. 1963
Producer: Department of Defence, Office of Civil Defense

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



About Fallout It's remarkable that the government generates so many "informational" & "instructional" pamphlets & films that contain no useful information whatsoever. About Fallout (1955) was a color film designed to reassure the public that the radiactive fallout, though it will reach even those who were not vaporized instantly during the nuclear holocaust, is not all that dangerous.

In the 1950s various military & civil defence agencies were handing out money to small film companies (even those like Joe Bonica Movie of the Month Club which usually did three-minute softcare nudie-cuties) & the deal would ihnclude providing the film footage to work with. So dozens of these sorts of films exist from every obscure producer that was.

About Fallout was likely directed by Jack Tilles who made films with Wilding Picture Productions which specialized in industrial films (training or promotional) as well as films for issues important to the government like the hunt for American communists, or military propaganda posturing as Civil Defense.

The idea was to "distance" the government from some of this stuff to make it look like it had something to do with news or grass roots movements or education, so a great many independent companies were used.

With animation peppering the lecture, at one point we're shown how easily heavy construction of buildilngs can protect us from nuclear bombs. One drawing cavalierly shows wooden walls of houses constructed with five & a half foot thick boards, as if that ever happened.

Better still is a five & a half foot thick solid wood wall plus three feet of dirt then a brick wall masked with steel. This presumedly can be arranged in the basement of a family home or in a large community shelter.

We're also assured that fallout is one-one-hundredth as dangerous in two days, & one-thousandth its initial strength in two weeks, so everything will be safe in two weeks -- more reason to shrug it off.

And we're assured that food is safe even contaminated by fallout since radiation only damages living tissue & food isn't alive. You just wash stuff, & if you happen to eat any fallout, it won't cause any harm, though for long term safety it's best to filter the water. It's just not to fret about because, "the hazard is very small."


About Fallout The identically titled though greatly revised & expanded from one to two reel length, About Fallout (1963) admits in its credits that it is a Department of Defense film, though the 1955 version tried to slip by as an independent production rather than government propaganda.

The "official" take on fallout throughout the 1950s was that it was largely harmless & if any of it got on you, brushing it off with a glove, or cleaning under your nails, would take care of the slight risk. The 1955 film follows this pattern closely, but it can be seen just as obviously in Survival Under Atomic Attack (1951) & any number of films.

But would people still buy those claims in 1963? This newer film incorporates animation & other footage from the 1955 original & some of the narrative text, but it's ultimately very different. Taken together these reveal a transmutation of propagandistic slant from one decade to the next.

Those few particles we see at the begining, we're assured, are totally harmless. But in the event of all-out nuclear war, billions of such particles would fall everywhere, causing sickness & death.

Now that's not very hopeful. This film was released immediately after the Cuban Missile Crisis & the fear of all-out nuclear war with Russia was acute in the public mind. Propaganda at this time trod a fine line: It should reassure people enough that they didn't rebel or despair, but keep them frightened enough to support proxy wars against the communists even if it was hard to see how bombing Southeast Asians helped.

The bullshit quotient for both versions has the narrator providing a lecture about the beginnings of the universe & the origins of radiation. This prime radiation is still zipping around us & is natural & good. Some of the animation for the expanded re-do gets very pretty showing the the further evolution of life.

So radiation is natural & has always been bombarding us harmlessly. Only with large amounts of radiation do we require require shielding, as for instance during nuclear war. But the lecture admits it's hard to shield oneself from masses of fallout on everything, which more animation shows us drifting on the wind & raining down on the earth & pretty much covering every acre of America from one coast to the other.

How does this add up to "don't worry"? Easy. We can rest assured that our "invaluable ally" is time. Suppose a nuclear explosion takes place at 12 noon. If it's hard to imagine, the film will provide animated clocks to help out. By seven o'clock the radiation is one-tenth what it was during the first hour. In two days it's one-one-hundredth its initial strength. In two weeks it's one one-thousandth.

About FalloutThis means that if we can hide out in our basements for two weeks we'll be fine.

So we should keep a thermos of fresh water & canned food in the basement, or in a fallout shelter in the backyard. They neglect to mention we should perhaps be prepared, a la a famous Twilight Zone episode, to shoot & kill our unprepared neighbors who want in our shelter.

Today in new millenium we well know that many locations have not yet reached safe levels of radiation decades after tests. With over 300 fission by-products from an atomic detonation, the idea that half-life renders it all harmless in a matter of hours or two weeks is derived by "averaging" radiation with half-lives of scant minutes & others with half-lives of decades. The deadly ones decay slowly.

Cesium-137 has a half-life of not hours or days but thirty years. Strontium-90 has a half-life nearly as long. The "short" half life materials like Tritium are even so taking over twelve years & Cobalt-70 over five years to become merely half as dangerous. And plutonium half-life from dirty-bombs is over 24,000 years.

It is today understood that attempts to survive fallout in shelters is unutterably futile. That's why cities long ago ceased wasting resources sustaining public shelters. Backyard fallout shelters, formerly sold to hicks through Special Offers at county fairs, are now understood to have been wildly absurd.

But did nobody know any of this in 1951 or 1963 when these propaganda films were made? Of course they did. And when this 1963 film asserts "Within two weeks most people can leave their shelters" the military perfectly understood that with or without shelters fallout had no method of mitigation. Everything they were recommending we do was smoke & mirrors, placating B-S, manipulative politics without substance of fact.

The film also recycles the animation from the earlier film that "reassures" the viewer you can be protected from fallout by living in structures made with boards that are five & a half feet thick -- or other improbable construction that never existed.

Laugh if you want but the government is still waging wars on completely made-up excuses, still endangering populations on pretenses of defense. It's only a matter of time before the poorly guarded thousands of nuclear warheads rusting in scores of locations around the globe find their way into the hands of fanatics who don't care if they kill themselves as long as the rest of the world goes with them. And upon that fact our very own military has been waging battles for oil in places that had nothing to do with that threat.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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